April Rose Murphy’s Design Studio and Shop follows the well woven pattern of its local heritage. She talks to Liv McGill.
April Rose Murphy’s linen and handwoven tweed design studio was inspired by Donegal’s rich heritage and is kept going through the close-knit community it belongs to.
She spoke with ThinkBusiness about what made her branch out on her own, what sustains a small fashion business in rural Donegal and why we should celebrate our Irish hygge.
What led to you starting your studio and shop?
I feel passionate about moving away from fast fashion, mass production, and the mistreatment of garment workers and I was inspired by the beautiful traditional crafts that we have in Ireland and by using our own natural resources to create them. It was important for me to be able to stay in Donegal. I am based in Kilcar in the Gaeltacht, where there is a real sense of culture and tradition in art, music and fishing. I wanted to promote the unique culture here.
“Everything we use and make is made from scratch and there is a beautiful sense of community in what we do, everybody comes together and helps”
I’ve always had a drive to work independently and setting up my own business gave me the opportunity to make my own designs and be financially successful doing it.
What makes the studio stand out?
We are authentic, everything here is handmade from scratch. I use handwoven tweed made by a local weaver. The yarn is sourced from Donegal Yarns, which is made in Kilcar. The studio is situated in the middle of a forest in rural Donegal.
“When you start a business you have an idea of what it’s going to look like and what exactly you’re going to do, but as it progresses and you meet different people, different opportunities come up and that vision changes”
It stands out because it encapsulates the cultural essence of its surroundings. Everything we use and make is made from scratch and there is a beautiful sense of community in what we do, everybody comes together and helps in lots of ways. There is a real sense of care in the way that everything is made here.
What challenges did you meet and how did you overcome them?
Covid-19 gave me the perfect opportunity to start working towards setting up on my own. A big challenge for me was being adaptable and taking time to make decisions that were right for me. When you start a business you have an idea of what it’s going to look like and what exactly you’re going to do, but as it progresses and you meet different people, different opportunities come up and that vision changes. A challenge is taking the time to make decisions that really work for you, and to recognise good opportunities.
“An issue for start-ups and young businesses is the worry about what your future looks like regarding personal finances, like the ability to get a mortgage or a car. More guidance and clear steps on planning for your future would be really helpful”
You need to be really focused on what you need to do. There are amazing grants out there but a lot of the time you have to spend money before you get it back. You have to be willing to take the risk. At times you may feel left behind when other people are doing well at their jobs, but you have to look to the future and have the vision. Have plans in place and be organised, you need to know what you’re doing.
What supports did you receive and what could be improved on?
I received a lot of help from Údarás na Gaeltachta. I got help with renting a space and with funding to go to trade shows. They pay for leaflets and signage in Irish and help with setting up websites. I am in a gteic building (Údarás na Gaeltachta Business Hub) and the facilities are amazing. In the early stages I enrolled in mentorship programmes with Donegal Local Development Company.
“Have a vision because you might work very hard at something and it might not work out the way you wanted but it’ll work out in a different way further down the line”
An issue for start-ups and young businesses is the worry about what your future looks like regarding personal finances, like the ability to get a mortgage or a car. More guidance and clear steps on planning for your future would be really helpful.
I get lots of support from my community. People appreciate what I’m doing and really go out of their way to help in whatever way they can. And equally, I go out of my way to help them.
What lessons have you learned that you’d like to pass on?
It’s going to be difficult, you have to stay encouraged about what you want to do. Getting advice and finding people with the right knowledge is difficult. I feel lucky because I have companies around me that help. It can be very daunting to connect and find people with the knowledge you need. I am lucky I have it here and that’s one of the reasons I stayed.
Take rests, they help you not to quit when things get tough. Have a vision because you might work very hard at something and it might not work out the way you wanted but it’ll work out in a different way further down the line. Don’t get discouraged, keep chipping away. Go to all the events that are happening through the Local Enterprise Office. I’m in the Women in Business group and any creative groups in the area where I meet other people. Get inspired by other people and what they’re doing.
What is your proudest moment?
Taking the risk opening the Studio. Some people thought a fashion studio in the middle of Donegal wouldn’t work but it’s possible to do anything now with the internet and social media marketing. People are willing to travel to somewhere special and they really appreciate what we’re doing.
What are your plans for the future?
To create more art and beauty, to work on collaborations with other design houses. That would bring the business up a level. To keep promoting and creating the lovely sense of Irish culture that my business has and the vibe that it has, which is Irish hygge. That should be celebrated. I am planning to sell my own homewares in the near future too.